I have a new report out, written with science policy expert James Wilsdon for the innovation foundation NESTA, entitled The Biomedical Bubble: Why UK research and innovation needs a greater diversity of priorities, politics, places and people. Here’s a summary of the report:
Biomedical science and innovation has benefited from significant increases in public investment over the past 15 years. This builds on the remarkable strengths of the UK’s academic life sciences base and pharmaceutical industry. But continuing to prioritise the biomedical, in a period when government aims to boost research and development (R&D) spending to 2.4 per cent of GDP, risks unbalancing our innovation system, and is unlikely to deliver the economic benefits or improvements to health outcomes that society expects.
For too long, the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors have dominated policy thinking about translating research, but these sectors are in deep trouble, with R&D productivity plummeting and R&D investment falling. Meanwhile, much of the wider innovation needed for the NHS, public health and social care has been under-resourced. Greater emphasis needs to be given to the social, environmental, digital and behavioural determinants of health, and decisions about research priorities need to involve a greater diversity of perspectives, drawn from across the country. The creation of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), which aims to bring a more strategic approach to funding and prioritisation, is the right moment to rethink this balance. This paper sets out why and how the UK needs to escape the biomedical bubble if it is to realise the economic, social and health potential of extra investment in R&D.
There are some shorter pieces discussing different aspects of our arguments:
In the Guardian Political Science blog: It’s time to burst the biomedical bubble in UK research
On the WonkHE website: Building an industrial strategy around the pharma/biotech industry is a bet on the US healthcare system remaining unreformed.
Rethinking the life sciences strategy
On the ResearchProfessional website (subscription required), focussing on the task UKRI has balancing its portfolio:
Examine funding balance to pop ‘biomedical bubble’, UKRI told
A news piece about the report in the Times Higher:
UK’s biomedical research funding ‘bubble’ is ‘about to burst’